Sunday, June 12, 2011
In Pursuit of Trivia
by Jeffe Kennedy
A friend once told me that I'm a fount of useless information.
She meant that in all affection. Plus it was an accurate observation. I have one of those brains that gloms onto details and files it all away with the enthusiasm of a hoarder anticipating the end of civilization. First my brain dutifully recorded every one of my record albums and those of my family. I could recite everything from Free to Be You and Me, Thumbelina, Neal Diamond's Jonathan Livingston Seagull, to this bizarre array of old Western songs.
Yes, if you never felt sorry for my mother before, now you do.
When I learned to read, I had another avenue for gathering facts of all types. You know how kids tease and say, "what did you read the dictionary?" Um, maybe. At least, I tended to get swept up and keep going from word to word when I looked something up. That set of World Book Encyclopedias? I might have read some chunks of those. Anything I ran across in the library, I would gobble up. I'd go on kicks and read everything I could find on, say, whales, or astronomy or Greek mythology.
Really, though, I blame Trivial Pursuit.
Do you all remember this game? It came out in the US in 1982, when I was 15. You moved pieces around a board and the square you landed on dictated a category. The other player or players would draw a card and ask you a question from that area.
This game drove me freaking nuts.
For a kid who thought she knew everything, this game laughed with the evil condescension of the trivia gods. The entertainment questions were all from 20 years before my time. At least. If I didn't know the answer, the default guess would be Clark Gable or Carole Lombard. I swear - half the questions were about them.
Literature was about books I'd never heard of, much less read. Science was on topics way past General Chemistry.
And if you didn't know the answer? This is the very worst part, children, so gather close and let me tell you about a dark and frightening time in our world:
This was BEFORE THE INTERWEBS.
That's right. You couldn't just throw a phrase into the search engine and get an answer, you had to look shit up in books. And a lot of this stuff wasn't in the home set of World Book Encyclopedias. Some of it wasn't even to be found at one's local branch of the public library.
My high school boyfriend, Kev, and I used to play Trivial Pursuit for hours. Yes, ours was a geek love, and it was pure and true, so shut up. Late one night, he asked me a question to which the answer was "Avery Brundage."
No, I'm not going to tell you who he was - go look it up. At least you have Wikipedia.
Now, when you're asked a question about the 1936 Olympics and the answer is a name like "Avery Brundage," things get kind of surreal. We got the giggles. It became a running joke. When break ended and Kev returned to college, he availed himself of Northwestern's truly comprehensive library to look up Avery Brundage trivia. He would send me reports. We worked up an extensive conspiracy theory.
A girl never forgets her first love.
And I can still recite Free to Be You and Me. Alas for those neurons that will never do anything else...